On EcoDomo’s factory floor, free-form platforms in light-gray, hand-stitched recycled leather are spread out like giant puzzle pieces. Once complete, they’ll be installed as raised seating in a Watergate office designed by Gensler; 150 columns and a reception desk will be covered in the same material.
Gaithersburg-based EcoDomo has long been a go-to source for commercial clients such as Marriott, Starbucks and Cartier; in fact, EcoDomo leather wraps bar fronts in 2,500 Starbucks worldwide. But DC-area designers and architects are just beginning to take notice of the company’s products—from flooring and wall and door panels with nail-head trim to countertops and headboards designed for hotels, restaurants, spas and private homes around the globe.
As Christian Nadeau, who founded EcoDomo in 2005, avers, “Whatever can be done with wood, we can do with leather.” The only challenge they’ve turned down so far? An all-leather bathtub.
EcoDomo’s raw material is an eco-friendly byproduct of the leather industry. Like wood veneer made from compressed paper, the product is composed of vegetable-tanned leather remnants that are pulverized and mixed with small amounts of tree bark and natural latex. A final layer of resin renders the product highly impervious to wear and tear.
Imported from Europe in roll or panel form, this recycled leather is first customized to order in EcoDomo’s Upstate New York plant. Here, employees emboss the material with textures including crocodile, shagreen, walrus and buffalo; dye it in an array of colors; and even print it with custom motifs. Then it’s sent to EcoDomo’s 12,000-square-foot Gaithersburg facility, where artisans fabricate all to-the-trade orders. The company also works with hide leather, but estimates that recycled leather costs 50 percent less.
“We’ve extended the appeal of leather to surfacing for interiors. Our product has the same elegance that leather brings to a purse, a car interior or a sofa,” says Christian. “But it has the performance of a laminate, and our floors have a softer and nicer feel underfoot. As a bonus, there’s the recycled aspect.”
EcoDomo also fashions decorative wall panels, headboards and floors from upcycled leather belts. First conceived as a wall panel for Nike, the application has become so popular, “we go through 1,000 belts a month,” says Bernice Nadeau, who runs the company with husband Christian.
Last year, the Nadeaus launched a new venture, Lord Fabrik, which produces stain- and water-repellent canvas suitable for wall covering, upholstery and area rugs; orders are already pouring in. “Its performance is comparable to vinyl, but it’s all natural and American-made,” explains Christian.
Available in multiple colors and textures, the all-cotton canvas collection carries on the Nadeaus’ commitment to environmental stewardship. “We are in business because we wanted to create something sustainable and authentic out of waste material,” Christian reflects. “We really care about that part of it.” ecodomo.com; lordfabrik.com